The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns today that despite notable recent economic progress, Africa remains the world’s most food insecure continent and calls on all African agriculture ministers to focus their investments and support efforts on smallholder farmers, including youth and women.
Kicking off in Tunis today its 28th Regional Conference for Africa, FAO applauded the continent’s continuous growth since 1999, and called for providing an enabling environment to end hunger in the region by 2025.
With an average annual GDP increase of 4.8 percent between 2000 and 2010 – up from 2.1 percent in the previous decade – Africa has seven out of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world.
The agricultural sector, in particular, has progressed considerably, with the intensification of staple food production, improved varieties of banana in eastern and central Africa, high-yielding varieties of maize in east and southern Africa and increased productivity in cotton production in Burkina Faso and Mali, and in tea and floriculture in east Africa. On average, agricultural production has increased slightly less than 1 percent per year, compared with about 2 percent in developing countries.
“The question is how African leaders can build on this progress by providing stable agriculture and fiscal policies that encourage investment, as committed 10 years ago in the Maputo Declaration, and strengthen governance and accountability mechanisms that contribute to more systemic implementation of policies and programmes,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, adding that “these actions are critical to trigger a transformation” in countries’ ability to deliver sustained growth and development.
Eleven African countries have already met the first Millennium Development Goals (MDG) hunger target to reduce by half the proportion of hungry people between 1990 and 2015. Three countries – Djibouti, Ghana, and São Tomé and Príncipe – have also met the even more ambitious 1996 World Food Summit goal to reduce by half the total number of hungry.
Despite all the progress, levels of hunger and undernourishment remain worrying in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa, FAO warns, estimating that of the 388 million who live in extreme poverty in the continent, approximately 239 million are chronically undernourished.
The 2012 UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Report states that Africa is 41 percent “off” the first MDG poverty target versus 25 percent in South Asia and 6.1 percent in Latin America.
FAO insists that there are significant opportunities for accelerating smallholder-driven agriculture and agri-business in Africa as the basis for transforming and commercializing the sector.
With 40 percent of Africa’s population now living in cities and consuming approximately 50 percent of the total food, the importance of rural-urban food supply chains should be acknowledged, FAO says, and policy makers should consider this urban market, which is more accessible to family farmers, at least as much as an opportunity as the export market.
Numerous examples of the dynamic growth of rural-urban supply chains can be found throughout the continent: millers-cum-retailers of teff in Addis Ababa markets, the millet supply chain in Senegal, the chicken supply chain in urban Nigeria, Mozambique and many other African countries, and the rapid rise of dairy processing companies linked to small farmers in Kenya and Zambia.
With a view to enhancing FAO contributions to the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) at country, regional and continental levels, the organization undertook important activities in 2013 towards strengthening and aligning capacity on CAADP activities for 2014 and 2015.
In July 2013, FAO collaborated with the African Union Commission and Lula Institute to host a High-Level Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the theme “Toward African Renaissance: Renewed Partnership for Unified Approach to End Hunger in Africa by 2025 within the CAADP Framework.”
The Declaration of the Meeting urges African Heads of State to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition on the continent by 2025. The Meeting’s roadmap recommends joint actions to mainstream and operationalize the Partnership for a Renewed Unified Approach to End Hunger in Africa through CAADP, implemented primarily with its own resources and with the assistance of technical and development partners.